Eliza Newlin Carney for TAP:
Books about who pays for American elections rarely hit the bestseller lists, but a rash of new titles tackling the once-obscure topic of campaign financing signals that publishers now regard political money as popular fare.
Whether your cup of tea is juicy details about the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, like those New Yorker writer Jane Mayer dishes up in her 450-page narrative Dark Money, or rigorous legal analysis along the lines of what Richard L. Hasen delivers in Plutocrats United, the newly hot genre of political money has something to offer.
For progressive organizers, California writer and activist Derek Cressman’s When Money Talks: The High Price of ‘Free’ Speech and the Selling of Democracy offers a how-to primer on how fed-up citizens can take action. For conservatives, law professor Richard Painter’s Taxation Only With Representation argues that campaign reforms would lead government to both spend less and regulate less. For those looking for a middle way, Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman explain inNation on the Take how special interest money impacts the daily lives of ordinary Americans.
None of these books will win fans in every quarter. Some reform advocates will wish that Mayer went beyond describing the problem to spelling out solutions. And some scholars will quibble that Hasen’s argument for legal fixes to promote “political equality” would not withstand constitutional muster. Conservatives will dismiss Cressman’s book out of hand, and liberals may argue that the books by Painter and by Potter and Penniman don’t go far enough.